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Brighton '87

13th International Festival of Underwater Activities

and 8th Festival of Underwater Photography

by Brian Pitkin

Reproduced from in focus 25 (December 1987)

Brighton 187, the 13th International Festival of Underwater Activities and 8th International Festival of Underwater Photography, held at the Dome, Brighton over the weekend of October 23rd, 24th and 25th, was without doubt the most important underwater photographic event this year in Britain.


The dazzling weekend started on Friday evening when invited speakers and guests gathered at The Old Ship Hotel, Brighton for a pre-evening drink before going onto the Royal Pavilion. There, in the magnificent Banqueting Hall, many of the top names in underwater exploration, conservation, cinematography and photography and other invitees were officially welcomed to Brighton by the Mayor. An entertaining brief history of the Royal Pavilion by the Keeper replaced the expected tour, cancelled due to severe damage to the roof in the recent hurricane-force storms.

Kurt Amsler

Kurt Amsler, winner of the DIVER Trophy for the 'Grand Master of Underwater Photography' and the Brighton BS-AC Trophy in the Colour slides (Grand Master) category [Photo: John Neuschwander]

Mike Valentine

Mike Valentine, winner of the Collins and Chambers Trophy in the Black and White Prints (Grandmaster) category; and The Ocean Optics Trophy in the Audio Visual (Grand Master) category [Photo: John Neuschwander]

Our return to the Old Ship Hotel was delayed by some joker pressing the fire alarm, which left a hundred or more people standing in the road outside until the Fire Brigade gave the all clear. Once inside a splendid buffet style meal was served before delegates moved into the ballroom for an evening of spectacular films, especially selected and presented by American Stanton Waterman.

Stanton Waterman is undoubtedly one of the world's finest underwater cinematographers and he has filmed some of the sea's most exciting inhabitants from giant mantas in the Sea of Cortez, bull sharks in the Bahamas, humpback whales off Bermuda, to great white sharks in Australia. He has shot and shown films all over the world and won trophies, gold medals and awards galore.

The two-hour show entitled 'The Waterman Collection' comprised Stanton's favourite underwater films made by other great diving cameramen. Stanton started with 'Deep Dive', a film made by Al Giddings showing a breath holding dive to a record 240' by Robert Croft. Incredibly Croft survived this

Second choice for the evening was Jack McKenny's 'Beneath a Sulu Sea', which included some breath-taking slow motion footage of manta rays 'flying' effortlessly through the clear waters off the Philippines.

To complete the first half of the Friday Night Film Spectacular, Stanton showed a short section on ice-diving from Al Giddings' two hour film, 'Mysteries of the Sea'. A further section from the same film, showing Herwarth Voigtman feeding sharks in the Maldives, started the second half. These two clips showed Al's versatility in differing extreme conditions and brought home the sparsity of our knowledge about the great oceans.

Benny Sutton

Benny Sutton, winner of the BS-AC/Berwin/Portelly Trophy as The Most Promising British Underwater Photographer. [Photo: John Neuschwander]

Mike Wong

Mike Wong, winner of the BSoUP Trophy in the Colour Prints (Grand Masters) category [Photo: John Neuschwander]

The evening was concluded with Lenora Carey's 'The Muru And Dilemma'. This superbly filmed documentary showed the Muru Ami fishermen and boys living and sleeping in grossly overcrowded conditions onboard a traditional fishing vessel. Nets were cast and lines of boys, using weighted lines festooned with ribbons, drove the reef fish into them. Yet others swam down to help drive the fish up into the net as it was hauled onboard. Scarcely a fish on the reef escaped.

The Waterman Collection was a thouroughly enjoyable, spectacular selection of films, and Stanton is to be congratulated on his choice. Regrettably British divers are unlikely to see this presentation again.


The Conference started for most people on Saturday morning. Underwater archaeologist, Margaret Rule, gave the first presentation, an illustrated talk on the Guernsey Wreck. This Roman wreck dating back to 300 A. D. was discovered in St Peter Port, Guernsey on Christmas Day, 1982. Burnt to the waterline before it sank, the melting pitch which covered her timbers melted and sealed the interior and its contents.

Ric Wharton followed on with a video showing recovery of gold from the EMS Edinburgh. The Edinburgh was sunk by enemy action in 1942 while carrying 51/2 tons of gold from the Soviet Union to Britain. New material included the story of the return of Ric Wharton and Malcolm Williams at the end of last year to recover the last half-ton of gold. Still on the theme of wreck diving, Ron Coleman, Curator of Maritime Archaeology at Queensland' s Museum, revealed some of the secrets of HMS Pandora and the Bounty Mutineers, showing video and slides. The morning session finished with a presentation by Emory Kristoff on man's first encounter with deep water sharks at 2,000 ft. with Eugenie Clark off Bermuda.

After lunch marine biologist and T.V. personality David Bellamy discussed pollution - 21 years on. Dolphin Man, Horace Dobbs followed by posing the question 'Can dolphins beat the blues ?' National Geographic Underwater stills cameraman David Doubilet and underwater cinematographer Jack McKenny gave exciting presentations illustrating their work, thus concluding Saturday's Conference.

Throughout the weekend, in the adjacent Corn Exchange, alongside the numerous trade stands, one hundred of the winning and exhibition Prints from the competition were displayed, In the Pavilion Theatre a selection of some of the competiton cine entries were shown almost non-stop. There was also a fine display of artefacts from some of the famous wrecks including parts of the Ran King treasure.

Saturday evening took many of us back at the Old Ship Hotel for a splendid Dinner Dance where David Bellamy and Mike Todd both gave entertaining after-Dinner speeches.

Marion Haarsma

Marion Haarsma, winner of the Umel Trophy in the Cine Film - Amateur (Grand Master) category [Photo: John Neuschwander]


Sunday morning saw Sylvia Earle exploring the deep ocean, a fascinating exposé illustrated with slide, video and film. Hans Fricke showed some of the first ever video of Coelocanth in their natural environment off the Comoros Islands, Indian Ocean.

The last item on the programme for the morning was a presentation of the award-winning films. Mike Portelly was to have introduced these but he had been detained on location in the Bahamas. In the event Slim Macdonald stood in at the last moment.

Clips from some of the best film entries were shown including, in the Professional Category Laurie Emberson's 'Path to the Sea' and 'Eye of a Dolphin', which won Gold and Bronze medals respectively, and Horace Dobbs.

After lunch Emory Kristof showed some slides taken of the Titanic during her recent recovery operations. Derek Berwin presented the festival winning slides and Slim Macdonald stood, assisted by Phil Smith. introduced the winning audio-visuals.- Mike Valentine's 'Sea Gypsy', which won a Gold medal, and Les Kemps' 'Re-invasion' and Vic Verlinden's 'Absolute Beginner', both of which won Silver medals. These were followed by Martin Edge's six-projector audio-visual 'Imagination'. The conference fittingly closed with a presentation of the Underwater World of Stanton Waterman, a selection of films and clips by Stanton Waterman introduced by the great man himself. In all a thoroughly enjoyable weekend.



About 1350 slides were entered for Brighton '87 and over half (748) of these were in the Grandmasters Section; slightly less than half (538) in the Open Section; and only 73 in the British Waters Section!

Of the 748 slides entered in the Grandmasters Section. 307 were People and/or Scenery; 215 were Animal Life and only 90 were Plant and Static Life. Of the 638 slides entered in the Open Section only 14 were Special Effects and 97 Macro. Of the remainder 265 were Animal Life; 171 were People and/or Scenery and just 91 were Plant and Static Life. Of the 73 slides entered in the British Waters Section, 33 were Animal Life; 20 were Plant and Static Life and 20 were People and/or Scenery.

In the Open and Grandmasters Sections the Macro category included both prints and slides, although considerably fewer prints than slides were entered.

As with all media, the slides were submitted to pre-selection (an light boxes) by a panel of Judges. At this stage about half of the slides (651) were selected to go forward to the final Judging which was held two days later, although slides in the larger categories were also projected at this stage.

The full results were published in the December issue of DIVER magazine. The numbers of entries in each Section appear to be reflected in these results. In the Open Section with 527 slides entered (excluding Macro and Special Effects), Gold, Silver and Bronze Medals were awarded in each of the three classes - Plant and Static Life, Animal Life and People andlor Scenery. In addition 9 highly conmended certificates were awarded. In the Grandmaster Section with 612 slides entered (excluding Macro), Gold Silver and Bronze Medals were awarded in each of the three classes. In addition 10 highly commended certificates were awarded. In the British Waters Section with only 73 colour slides, only 3 Bronze Medals were awarded. However the Judges didn't make their selections on the basis of the number of entries (they didn't have access to the figures), so not only was the number of entries in the British Waters Section low, the standard was also generally low! Lesson - if all those of you who were eligible to enter this Section had done so then you stood a very good chance of being among the medallists! Also you my have noticed that in both the Grandmasters and Open Sections, far fewer slides were entered in the Plant and Static Life Category! Lesson - enter more Plant and Static Life shots.


There were over 500 prints entered. Although the numbers in each Section and Category were not calculated, there appeared to be similar numbers in each Section and Category as there were slides. Again very low numbers in the British Waters Section. Most noticeable was the fact that although the rules specified a maximum size of M' x 12' there were a considerable number of small (less than 10' x 8') and very small (enprint size) prints. It is a sad fact that no matter how good a print is, it never looks as good as a print of equal quality of larger size. Lesson - enter prints of maximum or near maximum size! As one might expect, the standard of prints was noticeably higher in the Grandmasters Section, although there were some excellent entries in both Black and White and Colour in all Sections. However, there were far fewer Black and White than Colour in all three Sections. Lesson - enter Black and White Prints.


There were a total of 17 audio-visuals entered, 7 in the Open Section and 10 in the Grandmasters Section. Even being limited to twelve minutes each, meant over three hours viewing.

Unless you have made an audio-visual yourself, you probably cannot begin to understand how much work is involved in their production. It is a great shame therefore that there have to be winners and losers. However, some did not include the third image that results as one slide fades into another, so vital in any audio-visual. And in some the commentary ceased as soon as the underwater sequence began. In contrast there were some highly imaginative and professional presentations which deserved to win.


The Cine entries in each of the three Sections were divided between Amateurs and Professionals. All of the Amateur entries were Super 8 and all except one of the Professional entries were 16mm. Within both Amateur and Professional Categories the entries were divided between Fact and Fiction. There were a total of 35 Amateur Super 8 Cine entries (including only 3 Fiction) with a total running time of about 71k hours. Of these 18 were in the Open Section; 8 were in the British Waters Section and 9 (including only 2 Fiction) were in the Grandmasters Section. A few were silent and consequently rejected at the preselection. Some lacked titles and were completely unedited. Some were merely records of a particular diving holiday, completely unscripted. A minority were very good to excellent and one in particular, had it been made in 16mm, would have done well in the Professional Category.

There were a total of 13 films entered in the Profesional Category, all in the Grandmasters Section. These had a total running time of about 41/2 hours. Only one of the entries was In the Fiction Class, but this was awarded a silver medal. Of the remaining 12 entries in the Fact class I would have found it extremely difficult to select winners as the standard was, as you might expect, very high.


Of course the relative numbers of entries in each Section, Class or Category for any two competitions are likely to be different. It goes without saying that if you don't enter competitions, you can't win. However, if you do then these notes might help you decide what you should enter. Good luck!

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